News / Asia

Female Korean Political Heir Tapped As Presidential Candidate

Former Saenuri Party leader Park Guen-hye waves to supporters during a national convention of the ruling Saenuri Party for a presidential primary in Goyang, South Korea, August 20, 2012.
Former Saenuri Party leader Park Guen-hye waves to supporters during a national convention of the ruling Saenuri Party for a presidential primary in Goyang, South Korea, August 20, 2012.
SEOUL — South Korea's governing New Frontier (Saenuri) Party has selected Park Gyeun-hye, the daughter of a former dictator, as its candidate for president. Park begins the general election campaign as the conservative front-runner but a liberal political novice may prove to be her most formidable opponent in the December national election.

The announcement Monday of the winner of the presidential primary at the New Frontier Party's convention came as little surprise.

The party's election committee chairman, Kim Soo-han, declares Park Gyeun-hye the landslide winner, calling her victory a historical moment.

For the first time a major party in South Korea has selected a woman - as well as a child of a former president - as its candidate.

In results combining ballots of party members and citizens cast Sunday)and opinion polls, Park captured 84 percent of the primary vote.

In her 15-minute acceptance speech, Park notes the country faces numerous challenges, including being affected by the global economic crisis, threats from North Korea and a territorial dispute - although she did not single out Japan.

Park says this is a time South Korea needs a prepared and stable leader to confront these critical challenges. She says she will never accept any actions that threaten the nation's security or sovereignty.

The main opposition Democratic United Party is to decide on its candidate next month from among five finalists.

The DUP's primary frontrunner is Moon Jae-in who served as chief of staff during the administration of liberal president Roh Moo-hyun in the previous decade.

But many left of center say their best chance to defeat Park lies with a popular outsider and political novice. He is a high-profile university professor who became very wealthy as a software entrepreneur.
 
Ahn Cheol-soo has not joined any political party and despite increasing hints he will run for president, Ahn has yet to make a formal declaration with just four months remaining until election day.

Many observers say if Ahn runs as an independent that would split the left-wing vote further easing Park's path to victory. But Jangan University professor Park Chang-hwan does not expect that will happen.

The political analyst predicts Ahn and the DUP will reach a consensus on a unified opposition candidate.

Park, who is 60, in 2007 lost the Grand National Party nomination to current President Lee Myung-bak. Under current law the president is limited to a single five-year term.

Park has earned the nickname “Queen of Elections” for leading election comebacks for the conservatives. Her latest accomplishment in that realm was a widely unexpected victory for the party in elections for the national assembly in April.

Despite her high profile as a politician, the electorate knows little about her private life. She has never married. Park has previously stated that with no parents, husband or children her focus is solely on serving the nation.

Political analyst Park Chang-hwan notes the governing party candidate's popularity has been stable at around 40 percent since the last presidential election.

Park says that rating is a big political asset but her base has not been expanding and she has a weakness attracting the younger generation, moderates and those living in the capital.

Candidate Park, he says, must learn to communicate better with those outside her core support group.

Her father, Park Chung-hee, became president in the early 1960's when she was a child. The daughter was thrust into the national spotlight in her early 20's when a North Korean-backed assassin killed her mother in 1974. Park was then regarded as first lady for five years.

She suffered further personal tragedy when, in 1979, the intelligence agency chief killed her father inside the presidential Blue House compound.

President Park's 18 years of authoritarian rule, backed by tough martial laws imposed after he seized power in a 1961 military coup, remains a shadow cast over his daughter's quest to win his former post.

Many in the electorate are still bitter about Park's anti-democratic legacy while others are more forgiving -- considering him a key driver of helping to turn around the economy of an impoverished country that was devastated by war.

Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

You May Like

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festivali
X
April 24, 2015 4:09 AM
Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Keeping Washington Airspace Safe Is Tall Order

Being the home of all three branches of the U.S. federal government makes Washington, D.C. the prime target for those who want to make their messages and ideas heard. Unfortunately, many of them choose to deliver them in unorthodox ways, including from the air, as a recent incident clearly showed involving a gyrocopter landing on the Capitol’s West Lawn. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.
Video

Video Hope, Prayer Enter Fight Against S. Africa Xenophobia

South Africa has been swept by disturbing attacks on foreign nationals. Some blame the attacks on a legacy of colonialism, while others say the economy is to blame. Whatever the cause, ordinary South Africans - and South African residents from around the world - say they're praying for the siege of violence to end. Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.

VOA Blogs